Guest Post: Russian Adoption Story In The Making

Today is Adoption Blogger Day so I welcome a guest post by my friend Michael Mangum. I had the great honor of writing a recommendation for their adoption. Here is their story:

When I was 8 years old, my favorite books were the Choose Your Own Adventure series. You know, the ones where you would read a few pages and then have to make a decision on what to do next. The story could change by simply turning to a different page.

That’s how I feel this morning after reading the headline, “Russia suspends U.S. adoptions”. I just want to change the story.

At age 35, I now find myself having to explain to my 8 year old son why his 5 year old soon-to-be adopted brother from Russia will likely not be joining our family this summer. I shared with him the news reports of the Tennessee mom who sent her adopted 7 year old son back to Russia because she did not want him anymore.

His first question, “why isn’t she in jail?”

Regardless of the circumstances, her actions are inexcusable and she deserves to be charged with child abandonment as she is the child’s legal guardian and chose to give him up in a manner that would create an unsafe situation for the child.

Apparently, she made no attempt to seek help from her adoption agency or through the local community. I recognize that this child may have had significant attachment issues and even exhibited signs of psychotic behavior.

However, as an adoptive parent, she should have prepared herself for the worst and made certain that she had a strong support system in place before accepting this child into her home.

If given the chance to ask her one question, I would like to know whether she ever considered the impact of her planned actions on the adoption community.

There are more than 3,000 pending American adoptions of Russian children that are now “officially” interrupted due to present concerns over the safety of Russian children living in the United States.

My family’s pending adoption is one of the cases now at risk.

Here is our story..

We arrived at the decision to adopt a child from Russia after much soul searching and thoughtful consideration.

My wife and I are blessed to have conceived a child after 5 years of marriage. Our son is now 8 years old and he has brought much joy into our lives.

Ever since he was a little boy, he always asked us when he would get a little brother or sister. We both felt very strongly that the greatest gift we could give our son would be the life experience of growing up with a sibling as we did not want him to grow up as an only child.

It took us nearly seven years of trying to conceive our second child before we decided to give up. There were no medical reasons to explain our lack of success. We worked with a fertility specialist and after one miscarriage and several failed procedures we were emotionally drained. We felt like we had failed our son (and one another) and did not know where else to turn.

Frankly, neither of us had any experience with adoption and it never even crossed our minds to consider this as an alternative. That is, until we began listening to the shared experiences of friends and colleagues who had been through several successful international adoptions.

At first, we found it awkward and seemingly intrusive to ask co-workers and friends if their children were adopted. But as we asked around, we quickly realized how open people were in sharing their personal experiences. We were shocked to learn how many families were either personally involved with or knew someone who had an adoption experience to share.

In fact, we found out from three co-workers that all eight of their combined children were adopted from Russia. Ironically, we couldn’t find anyone who had successfully adopted a child from the United States, which seemed in the beginning to be a more natural place to start.

We had the fortunate luck of getting to know several adopted Russian children living in our area and were quite impressed with how well adjusted they were to American life. They all seemed happy, healthy and thankful (as much as can be expected from children).

Our minds were made up and we decided to take a leap of faith and begin our adoption journey. We re-financed our house, borrowed money, got our affairs in order and began the daunting task of completing the adoption paperwork.

Within a few months, we got a call from our agency informing us that there was a 5 year old boy, Sasha, being hosted by a family in New York City. We were given the rare opportunity to spend a few days with the host family and to get to know this child.

The next thing we knew we were on a train headed to New York around the 4th of July holiday, along with our son. We spent three wonderful days with Sasha and the host family, who welcomed us into their home with open arms. All I can say is that everything just seemed to click. The boys played well together and we could tell right away that Sasha had amazing potential. He was affectionate, playful and smart. He definitely showed some signs of behavioral problems, but what can you expect from a child who has spent his entire life in an orphanage?

On the train ride back, we looked at one another and agreed to commit ourselves to having this child join our family. We recognized that this was going to be a difficult adjustment for everyone involved but were willing to make that sacrifice.

After only a few short weeks, Sasha returned to Far East Russia and we continued our efforts to adopt him.

We received a call from our agency on a Monday morning in late December informing us that we had to be on a plane within a few days to visit with officials in the local Russian government and to meet Sasha at the orphanage.

Never having traveled internationally before, we were quite nervous about the journey ahead of us. We decided to bring our son along, as this was bound to be an experience that he would never forget.

I could go on and on about our adventures in Russia, but I will save that story for another time. Needless to say, we managed to get ourselves to the orphanage and back safely, traveling more than 10,000 miles each way. Sasha was thrilled to see us again, we met with all of the officials and signed the necessary documents. We even managed to find our way to Disneyland Paris on Christmas Day before returning home.

It has been almost four months since we returned from Russia. We are in the final stages of completing our dossier so that we can return to Russia to complete the adoption. We expect that the second trip will last about a month and were preparing to leave sometime over the summer.

That is, until this story broke.

All we can do is wait and hope that the U.S. and Russia will sign an agreement that will allow for intercountry adoptions between our two nations to continue.

In the meantime, there are a few steps that we can take now to help promote awareness of the success of international adoptions.

For starters, today is Adoption Blogger Day, which is a chance for families to share their stories with the world. So, please forward this posting onto your friends and family so that the truth about adoptions can be shared.

Also, you can sign a petition in support of allowing intercountry adoptions between Russia and the U.S. to continue.

Here is the link to the “We Are The Truth” petition.

Assuming that we can complete our adoption at some point in the near future, we recognize that the journey is just beginning. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but unlike the Tennessee mom, we have a very strong support system of Russian speaking friends and fellow adoptive parents to help guide our family along the right path.

I have spent the last few days reading internet postings about the Tennessee mom and adoptions, in general. I hope that our story helps to shed some light on the reasons why some families choose to head down the path of international adoption.

Bottom line, children need families. It should not matter where they are born. Rather, all children should be given the opportunity to reach their full potential and adoptive parents are there to help ensure that their circumstances do not get in the way of their dreams.

by Michael Mangum

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4 Responses to Guest Post: Russian Adoption Story In The Making

  1. Kelly Maguire says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so very sorry to hear this news and my heart aches for all of the families who are waiting to be connected and who are now placed in limbo because of the inexplicable actions of one person. My first reaction to the story was the same as your 8 year old sons. He’s very astute. I will certainly sign the petition and hope and pray that the situation is resolved quickly so that families like yours can be reunited.

  2. Thanks Kelly. We all knew this incident was going to cause a delay. Now we need our governments to work out as speedy a solution as possible.

    We’re so excited that after reading this blog, The Gayle King Show is going to interview Michael tomorrow at 9:30 AM on Oprah Radio, Sirius XM!

  3. Michael has decided not to be interviewed on the show. We are also hearing that adoptions have not been officially suspended. The situation is certainly evolving. We can only hope for the best for everyone.

  4. Thanks for an excellent blog.

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